Reading: Rom. 3:21-26.
At the outset we will try to summarise in a simple, comprehensive, and yet brief form. On this matter Paul, of course, is the chief teacher, and while he does not stand alone, he is far more comprehensive and perhaps more definite in his teaching on the matter of cosmic redemption than any other teacher in the Word of God.
We can summarise the teaching of Paul in this connection in the following way:
1. Two Opposing Forces in Relation to the Government of the Cosmos
Firstly, Paul teaches that there are, back of everything else, two opposing forces - God and Satan - arrayed against each other in relation to the government of the universe, especially of this cosmos. That is a simple statement. It includes a very great deal, but that is the first step.
2. Man Involved in the Conflict
Secondly, Paul teaches that man is involved in this conflict, and man is involved in at least three ways:
(a) As a Creature
The universe and this cosmos in it, as a created thing (that is, all that is meant by creation - the first chapter of the letter to the Colossians speaks of all things which have been created), was destined to be the inheritance of God's Son. By Him, unto Him, and for Him were all things created: "whom He appointed heir of all things": "through whom He created the ages".
(b) Intended to Share the Government with and Display the
Glory of God
Man was intended to be in fellowship with God concerning that intention, and by sonship through adoption (remember Christ was never adopted Son; there is a difference in the sonship of the believer even in its fulness, and the Sonship of the Lord Jesus) to share the government of the cosmos, and to display the glory of God's Son. Man was, by fellowship with God, coming to sonship by adoption, intended to share the government with God's Son and display the glory of God's Son; being conformed to His image.
(c) Through Disobedience Passed under the Reign of Sin and
Through man's progenitor, Adam, this dual purpose was assailed; that is, the inheritance of God's Son and man's place in it. That dual purpose was assailed in Adam. Through disobedience, he, with all his progeny, passed under the reign of sin and death.
In this way a new aspect of the cosmic conflict arose. From that point God is not only found against Satan, but man is under wrath, man is alienated from God, man in his nature is at enmity with God. Man is found in alliance with Satan (as we pointed out in our last meditation) through his fallen soul; and man is in bondage to sin, to death, and to Satan. Therefore, man needs redeeming, and with the redemption of man there must be the redemption of the cosmos, because it is one thing. The assault upon man (Adam) included the assault upon the Son of God and His destiny and heritage of the dominion of this universe, and also man's place with Him as a fellow-heir.
So you see the far range of the fall, the far range of the need of redemption. And when you have seen that, you are near to the point where you can begin to see the meaning of Christ and His cross.
3. God in Grace has Provided a Way of Deliverance
The third thing which Paul brings before us is that God in grace has provided for man a way of deliverance from that hopeless condition.
That way is two-fold, it has two sides; one is the Person of the Lord Jesus, and the other is the Cross of the Lord Jesus. They are two sides to God's provision for man's deliverance; delivered by and in a Person; delivered by that Person through the Cross.
The Cosmic Significance of Christ in His Person and in His cross
We come to consider for a little while the cosmic significance of Christ in Person, and the Cross of the Lord Jesus. We are emphasising the cosmic nature of these things; that is, the range, the inclusiveness, the all-embracing-ness of the Person of the Lord Jesus and of the work of His Cross.
(a) In Creative Activity
When we consider the Person we have to go right back to the beginning of things as the Word of God shows them to us, and see the Person acting in a creative way, but not only creating, but creating all things in Himself. He is not (so to speak) just bringing things into being and starting them off on their course as an order, a system, a universe, to go its way, just to be watched as a matter of interest, but the created universe is bound up with His own Person and by His Person; that is, His Person gives the meaning and the significance, to the universe. The universe takes its very existence, its very purpose, from Him, and if we did but know it fully (we know very, very minutely), we should be able to read the marks of the Son of God through this universe when it was created.
That is how it will be in the end. All the marks of the Divine Sonship will be clearly discernible throughout this universe. It has its very reason by Him. Paul teaches us (and we are keeping closely to Paul in this matter) that in Him all things hold together, have their being as a cohesive whole, and you see how cosmic the Person of the Lord Jesus is by those illuminating flashes which have been given to us in His death. In His death the sun was veiled, and darkness was over the face of the earth unto the ninth hour; in His death the earth quaked. In His death the very graves were opened. There is a convulsion in nature, and a great silence in heaven. It is as though heaven itself and the whole of the universe were struck dumb. The very creation felt this thing going through it. It was as though there had been a blow struck at the very meaning of everything.
We sometimes know in these little lives of ours how a blow struck at some thing in our lives involves our whole life. We speak of somebody's whole life being wrapped up in something or someone, and when that something or that someone is smitten, the meaning and value of life has gone with that; there is nothing more to live for, that was inclusive of everything. That is how it is with this universe. Strike the Son of God and you have struck the very meaning of the universe, the very purpose of the universe, the very life of the universe, and it is as though the universe says, "I have nothing more to live for!" That is how it was in the moment of His death. It is only a flash, it does not impress the world as it ought to impress the world, but God has allowed it to be on record, and it means a great deal.
That is why it was not possible for Him to be holden of death. If He had been swallowed up of death, the universe could not have gone on. It would have missed its purpose, its meaning. It would have crashed.
It may be that is what will happen when the Lord draws His church out of this world, and there comes a space between what is of Christ and what is of this fallen, God-rejecting cosmos. Just at that time it will lose its Divine meaning and will go through an awful convulsion, and need to be recovered in a new heaven and a new earth, the meaning of which will be Christ. We go back there, and see that all things are included in Him in creation. He is cosmic in His purpose in creation.
(b) In Incarnation
We pass from creation to incarnation, and in incarnation He brings with Him that same range of Personal significance. From birth to death cosmic forces are operative; not just human elements at work, but cosmic forces. No sooner is He born than hell rises up, showing that which we were seeing in our last meditation to be very true, that the devil governs this world towards his satanic ends, to rob the Lord Jesus of His inheritance by reason of that complicity and alliance between the soul of fallen man and himself.
Herod is a clear example of a man who in his soul has an alliance with the devil. Study the psychology of Herod, and see if the devil has not got that man in his grip through the soul, working to defeat the purpose of God concerning His Son, and, if it could be, at His very birth that He should be slain. The devil will stand at nothing to manifest his utter diabolical cruelty.
Not only do we recognise the cosmic evil elements as bound up with the incarnation, as affected by the incarnation, as interested in it, but the incarnation carries its own significance. Here is Man, God manifest in the flesh, God taking the form of man; and we know it was not to redeem Israel alone, but to redeem man; the whole race of humanity.
(c) In Baptism
We have to pass hurriedly from point to point. From the birth we leap to the baptism, over years, and recognise that His baptism was something very far-reaching. It was not just conformity to some religious ordinance. We have either to dismiss Paul and the others (particularly Paul, but the others with him) and simply blot out a great deal of the New Testament as being without meaning and value and necessity, or else we have to come to recognise that baptism in the New Testament is beyond mere ordinance, and is a thing of tremendous significance. It is not just a rite, part of a creed; it is not just a fragment of organised religion's programme, it reaches to a vast extent. The Lord Jesus in His baptism uses one phrase Himself which is a very far-reaching phrase; "thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). No one could possibly interpret that as meaning that the Lord Jesus, going down into the waters of Jordan (or any other river, or any other water) fulfilled all righteousness by just doing that; He is setting forth something else.
Paul gives the full explanation of baptism in relation to the question of all righteousness. What is it? The cosmos has fallen under wrath - sin, death, judgment. God demands righteousness, and God will never depart from His position of absolute righteousness and universal righteousness. He will cede nothing to unrighteousness, to sin. He stands for complete righteousness. Can man provide God with what He needs? No! What is the significance? What then will happen? If God will not move, and unrighteousness must receive a just recompense of reward (which from God's standpoint is death) then man and the cosmos must die in its inability to satisfy God's requirement of righteousness. A righteous creation, a righteous man, a righteous cosmos must be produced to fulfil all righteousness.
The Lord Jesus, as He comes to Jordan to be baptised, enters into that realm, and in a typical act, foreshadowing His Cross (which He placed at the very threshold and as the very foundation of all that He was going to say and do). Every word that He utters from this time onward will be based upon the Cross. That is the folly of unregenerated man taking up the New Testament and thinking that he can constitute society upon the teaching of Jesus. Placing in type His cross at the beginning of His public life, He said in effect: "All My teaching will be upon the ground that the sin question, the righteousness question, the judgment question has been settled! In these waters I recognise the state of man and the cosmos, and, although for Myself I have no need to go into death, into judgment, because I have come in incarnation to associate Myself with man's renewed state, to redeem him, I stand into the consequences of his sin, I stand representatively into the position that man occupies as under sin, condemnation and judgment!" The waters of Jordan were a type of that death and burial necessary to clear the way for something better; getting rid of the old that is in the way of what God requires. How shall all righteousness be fulfilled? By getting rid of the unrighteousness and then providing the righteousness. How far-reaching is the whole question of sin.
This universe is shot through and through with iniquity and sin and evil. The whole three-fold question of sin, righteousness and judgment was gathered up in His baptism in a representative way. Oh, how far-reaching those things are! For God's satisfaction righteousness has to garnish the very heavens, to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. There must be a new heaven, and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. That is to be the state which satisfies God. How can that be? By the passing through death and judgment of the unrighteous thing. His was a cosmic baptism, a racial baptism, an inclusive baptism, dealing with the great questions of sin, righteousness and judgment.
Coming up out of the water the heavens opened, and a voice said: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." That is the Divine attestation. The Spirit was sent, descending and lighting upon Him in dove form. Here is the new creation representatively, with which God is well pleased, with which God allies Himself. The Holy Spirit is God committing Himself. When we receive the Holy Spirit we come into nothing less than God committing Himself. That is why it is such a terrible thing to sin against the Holy Spirit.
The heavens opened when the Lord Jesus came up out of Jordan. The heavens had never been opened from the fall of Adam to any fallen man in this way. Never in the same full sense could God say of any son of Adam: "I am well pleased!" This is the new creation, and it is a new creation in Christ Jesus. It is all included in Him, and from the time that men began to believe into the Lord Jesus, these things became true of believers; they come under the pleasure of God, accepted in the Beloved One, and beloved for Christ's sake. It is not personal, individual, local; it is cosmic, it foreshadows what the creation will be. See the Lord Jesus at any point, and you see the creation. You see the universe wherever you see Him. Then, standing on the bank of Jordan, you see the foreshadowing of the new creation, God's heaven opened, God's good pleasure declared, and God Himself committed to it, bound up with it. That is the whole creation in Christ representatively.
(d) In Temptation
We are already committed to a further meditation upon this if the Lord wills, but simply to indicate as it arises in the course of things here, we see the significance of this temptation. What is the issue bound up with the temptation of the Lord Jesus? It can be put into three words:
Sonship (there is no question about that: "If thou be the
Son! If thou be the Son!");
Inheritance, which goes with sonship;
Dominion, universal dominion, as showing the position as Heir of all things.
Those are the three words which govern this temptation of the Lord Jesus. That is no local matter: it is cosmic. There is a tremendous range of things that the enemy was assailing when he assailed the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. It was the old thing of the first Adam again, with the same issues; in this One it was sonship possessed, in Adam a sonship potential; but still it was the question of sonship. It was a question of inheritance, it was a question of dominion.
Those are three things which are tremendous because, as Paul points out to us in Romans 8, the creation itself is in bondage, groaning, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. And with the manifestation of the sons of God the creation shall be delivered. Here is sonship, and the whole creation bound up with it. The devil said: "All this will I give thee, if you will forsake the position that you have, and come down!" That is not how the devil put it, but that is what it meant. Imagine the Son of God worshipping the devil; God incarnate acknowledging the dominion of Satan! How far he will go! To speak of it like that makes us see how mad the devil must be, how ridiculous. That only says to me how real this temptation must have been, for quite clearly it would have been preposterous and foolish for Satan to make an assault upon Almighty God, but here is God in Man-form. It is the Man-form that is being assailed. To say that Christ never really did suffer from temptation is to miss the point altogether. I know the old difficulties and questions as to whether a Perfect Being can be tempted. Leave your intellectual problems and come down to the fact that Christ was not just acting a part, making believe. All this about being tempted is not mere words; there is something desperately real about this.
Let us take this one thing as we go on, and let us recognise it. If you and I have, by faith, with any spiritual discernment, perception, apprehension, come to take our place in Christ, buried with Christ, crucified with Christ with very great cosmic consequences; and if through that position we have come into the anointing with Christ, let us remember that by that very position we have become doubly involved in the conflict of the universe. The more you stand into the meaning of union with Christ in His death, and burial, and resurrection, the more you stand in the meaning and value of the anointing, and the more terrible will be the assault of the enemy. If we want any proof that Christ's temptation was a real temptation, and that He suffered being tempted, our own experience is a proof that never has a child of God yet, with real spiritual understanding, come into this position of union with Christ in death, burial and resurrection, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit really and truly, without experiencing very soon that the devil was more against them than for them. As we go on he never relinquishes his attempts for our overthrow. This is because of this relatedness of which we spoke at the beginning, that man is to be in fellowship with the Son of God in the inheritance, in the dominion, in the glory. We need no other proof that Christ's Person is cosmic. Whenever we come into a spiritual position that He took up, we come into exactly the same experience as He did from the enemy.
(e) In Transfiguration
We pass finally to the transfiguration, and, so far as He in Himself in a representative way is concerned, the course is finished. The incarnation, because it was cosmic, was assailed at its very beginning; His baptism, when He took up His public, official work in relation to the race, saw the cosmic forces at work: heaven, and earth, and hell. His anointing, His temptation, His life and teaching, all reached out beyond mere earth, beyond flesh and blood to the ultimate ranges of the cosmos. Then such a course can be consummated, and the Mount of Transfiguration is the completion of that which has been victorious to that point. Here is humanity glorified, that is, for Himself. If He comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration it is not for Himself, it is to actually do what He has been typically doing; and in His Cross He gathers up everything that has preceded. He gathers up His baptism; it was a foreshadowing, now it becomes a reality. We shall see that after His Cross, as He rises through an opened heaven and receives of the Father the promise for the church as in a new way God becomes allied with Him in glory, His members will become the object of the hatred and antagonism of the enemy, and He is suffering with them. "We have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities". He is suffering with us in our temptation. He cannot Himself in the same way be tempted again, but He is suffering with us in our temptation. So that in His Cross, His coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, He gathers up everything that has preceded.
While, on the one side, it was a sin offering, on the other side it was a meal offering; that is, He offered a perfect humanity to God as well as brought sinful humanity under judgment in a representative way. Everything is gathered up in His Cross. He in resurrection is in possession of the consummation of the curse, a resurrection Body; "Like unto His glorious body" Paul says. We are going the way the Master went. The consummation of all is secured in Him. As He is, so are we to be, because He is a cosmic Person, He is an inclusive Person in redemption.
May the Lord make redemption to us a far more glorious thing than it has been, and show us something more of the fulness of that word of the apostle: "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus".