by T. Austin-Sparks
READING: Ps. 8:3-6; Heb. 2:5-9; Eph. 4:13; Rom. 2:16, 3:24; Acts 17:31; Luke 9:18-22.
"Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
"In the face of Jesus Christ"! In that phrase I see everything that relates to God's eternal purpose and to the Divine intention, both as to man and the universe. It embraces the counsels of the Godhead before the world was - it embraces the creation; it embraces redemption; it embraces the final glory. All that is in the face of Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is nothing which concerns us, as creatures related to God and eternity, which is not to be found in the face of Jesus Christ. God comes to us in the face of Jesus Christ, and all that ever we shall or can know of God is to be found in the face of Jesus Christ. The face is the human medium of communication. The face is the medium of personality. The personality is the character formed in secret, the sum of all secret history, and it embraces itself in the face. Sooner or later, somehow, the personality will betray itself in the face. But in order to read the personality through the face, there has to be a certain amount of qualification. You cannot off hand read a person through their face. You need to have certain ability to do so. If all that is of God is in the face of Jesus Christ, there has to be given revelation in our hearts, as well as in His face. We have to be able to see the face of Jesus Christ.
All that is but a wide and sweeping survey or intimation of what the face of Jesus represents. It must be brought nearer to our hearts in a practical way, but I want to remind you of this before we go further, that it has ever been by reason of a vision of the face of Jesus Christ, that God has secured lives and instruments which have reflected His own glory.
"To this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee...." (Acts 26:16). Note all the touches as to seeing the Lord in Acts 9, 22 and 26. I think we can truly say that Paul was a fruit of the seeing of the face of Jesus Christ. I am certain that we depend for everything upon a seeing of the face of Jesus Christ. Do not misunderstand. We are not thinking for a moment of any necessity for a literal vision, but we mean that it is absolutely essential to our spiritual life, and to our spiritual service, that by revelation of the Holy Spirit, something of the significance of Jesus Christ, the face of Jesus Christ, should be unveiled to the heart. I am being occupied very much, simply engrossed, in these days with the momentousness of Christ; and it is all gathered up into this phrase, "the face of Jesus Christ."
That phrase is employed to imply spiritual vision, spiritual revelation. It is a figure of speech, and in the main, therefore, not to be taken literally, as we have said. The words have in them the thought of our catching some view, some vision, of our having some spiritual insight as to the significance of Jesus Christ, presented to us as the expression, the countenance of God, in which all that is in the mind and the heart and the will of God is found, and is expressed. I believe it means that the face of Jesus Christ is the Man. If you want to know what sort of a person you are dealing with, if you want to know your man, you do not look at his boots (forgive my putting it in this way) you do not turn round so that you can see his shoulders; you look right into his face; you study his face; you get the proportions of his face. You watch him in repose; you watch him under tension; you watch his face in times of provocation or sorrow; you watch him in changing atmosphere, changing conditions, when things are for and when things are against. You learn the man by his face. If you have any special gifts at reading through the face, when you look at that face, you at once know the man. It is not always possible to do so, but you get a good deal through the face; at any rate, you look to the face to tell you what you want to know. It is in that sense that the statement in the Scripture is made "...the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"; that statement signifies that that face is the revelation of what lies behind of God - God's thought, God's mind, God's will, God's feelings, God's desires, God's attitudes, God's purposes. All that is written in the face of Jesus Christ.
But the words carry us further than that: The face of Jesus Christ is the face of a Man. It is the face of a Man with God behind it. It is the face of the Man about which we want to meditate at this time. "The Son of Man" is the designation found in one of the passages to which we have referred (Luke 9:22), "I am Jesus of Nazareth...." (Acts 22:8) - His was the face that was seen of Saul on his way to Damascus - "Inasmuch as he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained" (Acts 17:31). The face of a Man with God behind it! We are stressing the significance of the fact that the Lord Jesus was Man, the Man Christ Jesus. I know, and never forget, and I hope you never will for a moment allow the other fact to fall out of your remembrance, that we are dealing with God, utterly and verily, in Jesus Christ; but it is the significance of Christ as Man, "the Man Christ Jesus" that is to me the great wonder, the amazing wonder, that is becoming to me the real meaning of salvation, of sanctification, of glory - the significance of the Man, the face of Jesus Christ.
1. - Man. (1) Man Conceived.
So we are led by the face of Jesus Christ, and the light in that face, back into the Word of God. We find that that light falls upon the counsels of the Godhead before the world was, in which Godhead man was conceived. We see the conception of man in the Divine counsels: shall we say, the thought of there being man originated in the Divine mind, and became a part of the Divine counsels. In some dateless point in the past eternity man was conceived, and before the foundation of the world "foreordained unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ." Do you catch the ray of light? In the face of Jesus Christ! Foreordained unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ! In that face you have the man conceived, foreordained, and the object of the conception and the foreordaining is unto the adoption of sons.
(2) Man Created.
Out from the man conceived we move to the man created. The first chapter of the letter to the Colossians tells us that he was created by Jesus Christ. In Him, by Him, through Him, and unto Him all things were created; and the man conceived was now created. We see how in the face of Jesus Christ, by the light of the face of Jesus Christ, the first Adam was created.
(3) Man Probationed.
Then, in the light of that face we see the man, now created, being conditioned, probationed. We can never understand the meaning of the conditioning and probationing of the first Adam, except in the light of the countenance of Jesus Christ. Do you want to know why man was put on test, before ever he reached the adoption of sons? You have to come into the light of the face of Jesus Christ. That will explain all. We will pass to that presently. Remember the first Adam never did reach the adoption of sons. He failed in his probation. He failed under his test. The Word declares us to be God's workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God foreordained that we should walk in them!" But Adam ceased to walk in them, if ever he did walk in them at all, and therefore failed of the very creating purpose. The light on the face of Jesus Christ illumines all that for us. We understand it now in the light of His countenance. It is all a dark mystery, an enigma, until you come to the face of Jesus Christ.
(4) Man Ruined.
The man conceived; the man created; the man probationed; the man ruined. Do you need to comprehend the ruin? Do you need to know the meaning of the fall? You can only understand it in the light of the face of Jesus Christ. It takes the face of Jesus Christ to make you know what the fall is. Those who have never seen the face of Christ have never seen the reality or known the nature of the fall. I am not surprised that some men in this world do not believe in the fall, repudiate the fall, or talk about it being a fall upward and not downward. They have never seen the face of Jesus Christ. You and I have in some measure, and like Isaiah we have fallen upon our faces and said: "Woe is me!" Like Job we have cried out: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." To see the face of Jesus is to see the ruin of man, and you never will see it, until you see the face of Jesus.
2. - The New Man. (1) Previsioned.
There is then the true Man - not that other man, but the Man, Who was ever in the counsels of the Godhead, the Man conceived of God, the Man previsioned through a long history. He was previsioned in prophet, priest and king, previsioned in a thousand different ways, and is seen now, as no one ever did see Him then, in the light of the face of Jesus Christ. It takes the light of the face of Jesus Christ to explain the Old Testament in its types and symbols.
That is exactly what happened after His resurrection. There were men who knew Moses, and the Psalms, and the prophets, but they did not see the inner content and meaning. But as He walked with them, and opened unto them the Scriptures from Moses, the Psalms and the prophets, in the light of the face of Jesus Christ they saw the Man previsioned throughout - "He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). It requires a seeing of the risen Lord to give us the light on the Man previsioned. Until you really have a view of the face of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament is full of enigmas. Again, you cannot see Christ everywhere, except you have had a view of His face, but once you have seen that face, you will see Him everywhere. Once you have the clue by revelation you cannot read anywhere, from Genesis onward, without seeing the face of Jesus Christ.
In the fullness of the times God sent forth His Son - the Man provided - not created, but provided. There is a big difference now. The first man was created. The Last Adam is provided, "God will provide himself the lamb" (Gen. 22:8). In every way the Last Adam is provided by God.
Even here the Man provided is conditioned. The Last Adam, as the first, was on probation. He was placed upon a basis of faith and obedience, just as the first Adam - faith in His Father, obedience the practical expression of that faith. Therefore, as Son of Man He had nothing in Himself, but everything in His Father. Whatever He had as Son of God is quite another thing, but as Son of Man He did not live upon the basis of His deity: He lived upon the basis of faith and obedience, having nothing in Himself but everything in His Father - "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me" (John 6:57). He lived by the Father.
Of course, we know that that conditioning was the ground of His testing. He was conditioned by faith and obedience, with every resource in His Father and none in Himself, save the resources of such a humanity as His was. (I believe that a perfect humanity has resources in itself which fallen humanity has not.) But we are now speaking of the resources of His deity, of very God. Those resources were in a place where He, for a probationary time, could only avail Himself of them through faith and obedience. Thus conditioned, He was tested by His conditioning; and tested, not by chance but by Divine appointment. He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. It was a part of the intention that this conditioned One should at the very outset of His life be tested by the forces of evil in this universe, subjected to the fiery trial of hell's terrible darts of temptation. Satan left that work with no angel, or band of angels. He was called into it himself. Christ met the lord of all the evil angels, and was subjected to his testing, not only in the wilderness but again and again, to the very last moments of His Cross, when through sneering enemies Satan still made the suggestion that, if He would only come down from that Cross, all men would believe, and He would get the following. He had come for the Cross, not to come down from the Cross; but we must remember that in the awful agony of spirit and soul and body that suggestion would not fail to have its own fierceness of temptation. Oh, what easement from the agony was offered Him in that moment, if He would but come down from the Cross, for the seeming gain of all He hung there for!
Tested and proved are not the same thing. Tested, then, as the result, proved. When you are proved, you have graduated from the test. If you can say of anybody, They are proved! you mean that they have been through the fire and you know them; they are established.
Perfect, yet perfected. Made perfect through sufferings, we are told. The Man - let the word ring in your ears - the Man perfected! He has walked in the foreordained works triumphant. I work "today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected" (Luke 13:32). Perfect walk by faith, by obedience, and the perfected Man as the result.
The Man installed at God's right hand, the perfected Man, with a perfected Humanity, installed at God's right hand as representative, and as a representation of God's realised goal for the race. There you have all that is meant by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Installed as representative, as model, to which the new creation in Christ Jesus is to be conformed - perfected humanity.
God "gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). The Man related, in the relationship of Head to the Body.
(5) Corporately Expressed.
What is the final issue? The Man corporately expressed: "....unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...." (Eph. 4:13). That does not relate to an individual, but to the Church. "What is man," inquired the Psalmist, "that thou art mindful of him" (Ps. 8:4). The Apostle takes up the question, and, still relating it to God's thought for humanity in general, God's intention, goes on to say that so far we do not see that truth of man corporately, collectively consummated, but that we behold Jesus made a little lower than the angels, and travelling the same path as man up to a point for an express purpose, and realising it - "we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that... he should taste death for every man." Again, "Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2). There is the man collectively or corporately expressed.
That is the unveiling of the face of Jesus Christ. The face of Jesus Christ embraces all that is signified by the "Man Christ Jesus" from eternity to eternity in relation to God's thought, God's will, God's design. It is all behind that face. That is what we mean, when we say, Catch a glimpse of the face of Jesus Christ and you have the wonder of all ages, the glory of God from eternity to eternity in the face of Jesus Christ; the Divine counsels, the creation, the redemption, the glorification of humanity, of man, in "the Man Christ Jesus." That is for those who see that Righteous One, hear the voice of His mouth. But for those who through disobedience, unbelief, still allow the veil which the god of this age hath cast over the hearts of the unbelieving, still allow that veil to remain, God "hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained" (Acts 17:31). For the one, the Man represents the glory of God. For the other, the Man represents the judgment of God. It is to be in and through and by a Man. You see how God has summed up all things in Christ. It is all in the face of Jesus Christ.
I do not know what that conveys to you. It may sound to you more or less like a clever summary of the Bible and of truth. Let me make it clear that this is not the fruit of simply sitting down and studying. I did not sit down and study this. It came to me like the passing of something before my heart, and I tell you I was stirred in heart at what I saw to be the meaning of the face of Jesus Christ. I can understand now why Paul was revolutionised. He saw the face of Jesus Christ. He did not simply see a blazing light on the way to Damascus. He saw the significance of Jesus of Nazareth in the glory, the Man Whom probably he had seen in Jerusalem; the Man Whom he had hated, loathed as a blasphemer, as an apostate; the Man Whom he had thought to be of all creatures the most objectionable, an impostor; the Man Whom he thought had been rightly handled and given His due, when they crucified Him. He saw that Man, and what that Man meant as installed in heaven at God's right hand, and there broke upon him something of the significance of Jesus Christ, and he saw the face of Jesus in that eternal, and universal, and spiritual sense, that all-inclusive sense. Out from that beholding - for he never stopped beholding inwardly the face of Jesus - there grew and grew this explanation of history; this explanation of the race; this explanation of man; this explanation of human destiny; this explanation of the Cross: this unveiling of things which no man could ever know by reason or study. There came out into the heart of Paul the knowledge of what went on in Divine counsels in eternity of old. It was all seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ interpreted everything, explained everything, revealed everything.
This it was that made Paul the man he was. It was this that gave him the power of endurance, the power of suffering, the power of going on. He had seen the face of Jesus Christ, and what a realm, what a wealth, what fullness was in that face! He says, "We have this ministry" (2 Cor. 4:1). What ministry? Why this, God hath "shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"; and our ministry is simply to tell what we have seen in that face, the meaning of Jesus Christ, "the Man Christ Jesus" - the amazing wonder of a Man! Yes, not forgetting all that is extra to that, and ever was, and ever will be of Godhead, but in the light of that the amazing wonder of a Man! I confess to you that while I glory in Christ as Son of God, and while I glory in Him as very God, and in God as God, the real wonder of it all only comes to me as I see that wealth of glory coming down into the face of a Man; as I see that expressed in a Man, all taken up in a Man. Yes, Man of my manhood, but different! Man torn with all my passions, and yet without sin in Himself! That is to say, a Man beset by all my temptations, and knowing what it is to have to battle with that pressure which comes upon us in order to overwhelm us. In our case much of it arises from within; but, oh, we do know to some extent what it is to have that pressure come upon us from without, and to have something evil impinging upon us. He knew the full force of that as you and I have never known it - the impingement of universal evil to try and make Him think other than He would think, and act other than He would act, and choose other than He would choose, and that under all manner of circumstances which would facilitate the temptation and the tempter.
Yes, a Man has triumphed. A Man has taken up the fight. A Man has come through, and in humanity has realised God's end in Himself and taken that perfected humanity back into the glory, and is installed and related. And now by the blessed eternal Spirit, through faith, we are joined to that Man; and when we gather around the Table and take the bread and the cup, we in faith are taking in spirit of that perfect humanity - joined to Him one spirit, to be one Body, one glorified humanity eventually, of which we now have the earnest in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
It is marvellous! It is beyond our apprehension, our power of expression! Oh, that the Lord would open our hearts, yea, break them open, and give us a new apprehension and grasp of the meaning of the face of Jesus Christ! Dwell upon that, and ask the Lord continually to shine in, shine in, shine in, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The Son of Man! Do you notice where He took that title? He asked: "Who do men say that I am?" Elijah! One of the prophets of old! "But who say ye that I am?" "The Christ of God!" Then He commanded them to tell no man, but to keep that to themselves, to keep that covered. That was something which for the moment was to be suspended. At that point for the first time He took to Himself the title "Son of Man" - "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected... killed." What is the import of this. Oh, He has leapt over the bounds of Messiah-ship. "The Christ of God!" That is all right for Israel, but He has gone beyond Israel now. Israel is refusing their Messiah. The title "Son of Man" passes far beyond the bounds of Israel and is the racial representation. Not Israel, but all men: He is the world-wide, universal Son of Man. How? By the Cross. The Christ has leapt all the limitations of nationality, even of Israel, and has bounded the range of humanity. He took the title "Son of Man," as Israel refused their Messiah and the Cross came into view. He saw that the Cross was leading to a baptism of passion, which would mean a baptism of fire into all the earth. Not to Israel now! Say nothing about that! This is not the time to preach Israel's Messiah! The time now has come into view when by the Cross all men are coming into God's eternal thought.
The Lord open our hearts to see the face of Jesus Christ.