by T. Austin-Sparks
"Life Because of Righteousness"
"And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has the life; he that has not the Son of God has not the life. These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:11-13).
"And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).
"For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ. So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life" (Rom. 5:17-18).
"That, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21).
"And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:10).
If we are seeking for a master key with which to unlock the
Bible, we can find it in one word - Life, the great issue of all
the ages; and we can say that the Bible is altogether occupied
with this. The Bible, from beginning to end, is concerned with
this matter of Life as over against death. These two things, Life
and death, are set forth, as we know, in relation to two persons:
Christ the Life, and Satan and death.
We have said that the Bible from beginning to end is occupied with this question of Life, and you will immediately call to mind that the Bible opens and closes with the Tree of Life. You know that in Gen. 2:8-9 the statement is made - "God planted a garden... the tree of life also in the midst of the garden". And you know that the second verse of the last chapter of the book of the Revelation says, "In the midst of the street thereof" (that is, of the city), "and on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life".
But what we want to recognize and fully understand is that this
tree represents a Life of a peculiar and unique kind. In Genesis 3
man was already alive, but there is represented a Life available
to him which he did not possess. That Life, as symbolised by the
tree, was eventually shut off from him, or he was shut off from
it, showing that there was a Life which a man who was in a sense
alive, did not possess. That unique and peculiar Life is known to
us in the Scriptures as "eternal life".
But again let us be quite clear that it does not mean just duration of life. It is a kind of life. I think many Christians have failed to discriminate between duration, extent of life, and immortality. Immortality is a kind of life that goes on and it is that immortal life, not just the continuation of life, not just an interminable life, but that peculiar specific immortal life which is the great subject of the Bible, the great quest of man, and the great purpose of God. So it is in relation to this Divine Life and God's purpose for man to have it that the whole battle of the ages is waged between heaven and hell; and man is at the centre - the object and the occasion of it all.
Having said that, we can come now to the Scriptures and to this incomplete and imperfect summary and outline (click here to see diagram) which is before you. Again may I say that a great mass of detail will have to be ignored and left out. This is the second message [first message is missing] and what is before you is only a part of the Pentateuch. There is all the rest of the Bible! So it is quite clear that we have to do our best to say all that we can say, and leave the rest.
(1) The Probation of Life
Well now, coming to this outline; it is not my intention to stay to say anything about a number of initial points. We begin with the probation of life under which we see man: Man conceived, Man created, Man conditioned, Man corrupted.
1. Man Conceived
Just a word about the first of those four things. There are several Scriptures which take us back to God's thoughts before ever He engaged in creation. For instance we have this:-
"Whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29).
"Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself" (Eph.1:5).
"Having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11).
"Who called us with a holy calling... according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal" (2 Tim. 1:9).
Such passages take us back into the thoughts and counsels of God before the world was, and there in those thoughts and counsels we find man conceived.
2. Man Created
And out of the conception of man came the creation, and just as the conceiving, according to those Scriptures, was all in Christ - for everyone states emphatically that it was all in Christ, this foreordaining, this calling - in the same way the creating was in Christ.
"Who created all things by Christ Jesus" (Eph. 3:9).
"For in Him were all things created... all things have been created through Him, and unto Him" (Col. 1:16).
3. Man Conditioned
Conditioned, placed on probation, put into a conditional position with a great 'if' governing that position. If, on the one hand, you take a certain course, the result will be such and such. If you take the other course, the consequences will be such and such. Man conditioned - and the thing which was governing was this whole question of Divine Life. Along one line that Divine Life would be inherited; along the opposite line it would be missed and forfeited.
4. Man Corrupted
Then, finally, man corrupted. How much there is there which ought to hold us for a while as to the nature, the method of the corrupting. But not one of us needs to stay for any argument as to whether man has been corrupted. Some people do argue to the contrary - his fall was a fall upward! But need we stay to discuss it? The horror of that fall, of that corrupting, is more glaring today than ever it has been. Ask any medical man whether he is giving his life to correcting something that has gone wrong or to building up something that is basically right. The answer must be that it is repairing a breakdown which is coming in because things have gone wrong, and what is true physically, is true morally and spiritually.
(2) The Life Missed
Man corrupted - and because man chose, exercised his own power of choice in the wrong direction against God, that Life which was God's intention for him was missed and forfeited. Missed firstly because of unbelief, and that was a heart matter, not just a head matter. Many people say they cannot believe because of certain arguments and reasonings. The trouble is much deeper than that. You know that whenever in the Word of God belief is under consideration, it is never related to the head. It is always related to the heart. "If thou... shalt believe in thine heart" (Rom. 10:9) - that is the Word of God, and we get over a very great deal of our difficulty when our heart is in the right direction - that is, if we want to. And that goes right to the very centre of this trouble with Adam. It was not just that Satan propounded a theory which upset the balance of his mind, but it presented something that appealed to his heart and he allowed his heart to go after that. God's trouble all the way through with man has been that his heart went astray, his heart went wrong, and unbelief is a matter of heart desire, heart disposition, heart direction. It is strange how people can believe anything that they want to believe. Is that not true? If they want to believe it, they will believe, it does not matter what it is. It may be the greatest absurdity and the darkest untruth, but if they want to believe it, they will believe it. If you do not want to believe a thing, no one will make you believe. It was man's heart that went wrong and unbelief is always there.
Now, every point that we are making is of greater consequence than itself as being something in itself. You will see that there is a correspondence between the one side and the other in this outline. It was not my intention to pass over to the other side yet, but just by way of illustration and to help you to get further with these things than just as something in themselves. When you come to the matter of the Lord Jesus Himself, the last Adam triumphing where the first Adam failed, then you find that His faith was triumphant, mighty, death-conquering, Satan-conquering faith. It was that faith because His heart was in the right direction. Look at the state of His heart through His life; His heart God-ward. He wanted, He desired, He loved, He delighted... His whole heart was towards His Father, towards God, and that was more than nine-tenths of the battle. And Satan's point of attack upon Christ was always to try and present something that appealed to His desire, His feelings: "Make these stones bread" (Matt. 4:3). "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall never be unto thee" (Matt. 16:22), this going to the cross and dying. "Come down from the cross, and we will believe" (Matt. 27:42). All these things are something to be desired, but His desire was more mighty towards God and God's will than towards any personal interest and gratification and that saved Him from unbelief. Love for God will get us out of many of our problems.
2. Disobedience, Unrighteousness, Death
Unbelief, of course, leads at once to disobedience, and the two are always kept together in the Word of God, it is the disobedience of unbelief just as it is the obedience of faith; but from the heart the movement is immediately to the will. Disobedience is a matter of the will as unbelief is a matter of the heart, resulting in a state of unrighteousness, and we want to be very clear about this, that the Word of God does not teach that there is unrighteousness in us; what the Word of God teaches is that we are unrighteousness. The utter position is this to which the New Testament brings us, that Christ was made sin in our stead, in our place, made sin that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). It does not say that Christ took our sin as something apart from ourselves. It says He took us as sin and included us in Himself at that moment as our sin; we are made His righteousness. Let us get right hold of this. It is one of the most helpful saving realities if it comes to our hearts with sufficient force. Martin Luther had an utter way of putting this and he had reason for doing so. He said, "Oh Christ, Thou art my sin and I am Thy righteousness; I am Thy curse, and Thou art my blessing; I am Thy death, and Thou art my life." See how utter that is, and it is true. We are all unrighteousness. It is not just something unrighteous in us or about us. We are that. That is our condition, position, and state, and the resultant penalty is death through sin because of unrighteousness.
(3) The Life Reserved
1. The Living Ones
Thirdly, the Life reserved. Here we again bring in the cherubim of which we were speaking at some considerable length last week, known to us in the Scriptures as the living ones; not the living beasts, the living creatures, but correctly, the 'living ones'. I underscore that first word - the living ones. In the original language it is the one little plural word zoa. Zoe is that particular peculiar Life called 'eternal life'. Zoa is just the plural - livings; but as that does not convey very much to us, you have to add another word to define it - living ones, the ones that live, and that brings us right into touch with this whole matter of Life.
The cherubim are mentioned some hundred times in the Bible. It may surprise you. I mention that because they have such a large place and therefore they must carry some very great significance. But note their connection. They first appear at the Fall. It is when man has sinned and become unrighteousness that the cherubim appear for the first time unannounced, unexplained. The simple statement is made that they are made to dwell at the gate to guard the way of the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24). That is the first mention.
Where is the last? Where do they disappear? Where do we lose track of them? You open the book of the Revelation, and they disappear from view with the marriage supper of the Lamb. They are at the marriage supper of the Lamb and they are joining in the song, the song of creation, the song of redemption. With the Fall, sin coming in and its consequences, they appear. With the consummation, the marriage of the Lamb, the redemptive work is finished. What does it signify? Well, look at every connection between the two.
You will find them coming in in the book of Exodus in connection with the tabernacle. You will find them in two places there. You will find them at the mercy seat where the blood is sprinkled for atonement, and you will find them wrought upon the veil between the holy place and the most holy place, that sacred veil through which even the High Priest Himself can only pass once a year and then with the strictest provision to safeguard him from death, always governed by this fragment - "lest he die". You see the relationship. There is the blood upon the mercy seat right inside the presence of God, and it is a question of coming into the presence of God without dying; living! Come through that veil in virtue of the blood, the shed blood, and you live.
Now all I am going to say about that for the moment is this point, that the cherubim in both those connections have to do with Life conquering death, Life dealing with all the cause of death and overcoming death and bringing Life and immortality to light, dwelling amidst everlasting burnings without hurt. They are the custodians of Life.
You pass to the historical books and you find them everywhere in Solomon's temple, two great cherubim over the mercy seat, immense, fourteen feet high and with wings fourteen feet in length, so great that they could not build the wall of partition until they had been put inside. No opening would have been big enough, they are so dominating, and you find them everywhere in that temple. It is another aspect of things. We are in the Pentateuch. We have not got to the historical books and the specific significance of that part of Scripture, but there again it is all a question of life. Solomon's temple is a scene of Life. It is the great matter of reigning in Life because you have now come to the kingly section of the Bible. They govern the whole matter of reigning in Life.
You pass on to the prophetical section, and you know how much they are in view with Ezekiel. In the first chapter and in the tenth they are very much in evidence, and again it is all in view of life. It is a scene of death, the glory has removed from Jerusalem and gone away. Everything around and among the Lord's people is in a state of death, and in the midst of that scene of death the cherubim are introduced again, and are given a large place. So Ezekiel is called the prophet of hope. Life is going to triumph over death. You will not get through Ezekiel's prophecies before you come upon that great vision of the valley of dry bones; the resurrection, the Life. That is the hope, but the cherubim govern this whole question again.
Well, we see that they are there in connection with redemption in all its aspects, from judgment to glory. They are connected with the Tree of Life, with the fire of the Shekinah glory in the sanctuary, with the throne in Isaiah 6, with the mercy seat and the veil in the tabernacle, with the brass on the laver, with the fire of judgment, with the song of redemption and with the judgment of the earth. Their appearances are varied, it is true, but their form is one, and the predominating feature in their form is man. They all have the likeness of a man predominantly, and then three other likenesses in association: the lion, the ox, and the eagle.
2. Representation and Dominion
I want to emphasize this matter of the predominating feature of a man, because that is the key to the cherubim. What do they really represent and stand for? They speak of a humanity as God conceives it, God's idea for man as possessing His own Divine Life. And when man possesses Life according to God's mind, he will be a peculiar kind of man, a different kind of humanity altogether from what he is in Adam, and the Life in him will be a regnant, kingly life. It will bring him into a place of dominion - there is the lion feature. It is a Life which reigns, which has dominion. "The power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16). This Life of God is a tremendously potent thing.
Oh, the life in nature is a mighty thing. Just find something that has got life and see what that life will do. See it in a plant, see it in a tree. It will slowly, with persistence and tremendous force, work its way up and force its way through the greatest obstruction. A mighty rock can be cleft asunder by the force of life in a simple twig which grows underneath it, heaves it, gets into its crevice, and bursts it open.
But if that is true of the life which is in nature, what about the Life which is in God, this other Life? The ultimate consequence of this Life is that all the power of death in all its forms and relationships, is going to be destroyed by it; the power of death working in the whole physical realm, the whole moral realm and the whole spiritual realm. Satan and his whole kingdom of death will be utterly destroyed by the power of this Life in Christ and in His members. It is a mighty Life. That is the lion aspect of the cherubim, the living ones. It is reigning, it is dominion. No wonder Satan will do anything to keep men from having that Life, or, when they have it, to quench it by any means.
3. Service and Sacrifice
It is a Life, the very nature and essence of which is a giving of itself, the opposite and reverse of what Adam did - to draw to himself, to serve himself, to possess in himself, to have and to be himself. That was the heart of things with Adam. Satan said, "If you take that, you may be as God. Why not have the root of the matter in yourself, the seat of everything in yourself? Why not be equal with God?" And Adam yielded to that, and desired and drew to himself and lost the Life.
The last Adam gives, God gives; He so loved that He gave. The essence of Divine Life is giving, giving unto the last, to death. That is the ox aspect of the cherubim, for the ox is always the symbol of service and sacrifice. If you and I really possess this Life, this Life of God, the one thing that will characterise us will be a continual desire to give, to pour out, to yield, that others may get the good. Service unto sacrifice and to death.
4. Heavenly Glory and Mystery
But it is a mystery, it is not of this creation. This Life is a strange thing. No one can understand it. If the life of nature has never yet been defined or understood and no one knows what it is, it is infinitely more true of the Life of God. It is a mystery, it will make us do things which we would never do. It will hold us from doing many things that we would do. It will very often contradict what we think is the highest wisdom and cause us to do what we would judge to be the great folly. People have been so actuated by the Divine Life that they have done what the world calls very foolish things and they have not done many things that the world would judge to be the wise things. But the people of God are an enigma to the world because they are actuated by another Life which is not of this world. And what is true of Him Who is the Life, is true of all those who are one with Him as the Life, and that is the eagle aspect of the cherubim - mystery, heavenly glory, something outside of this creation. That is the Life, that is why they are called "living ones".
This Life, we are seeing, was reserved. It was taken up by the cherubim, and man in his fallen condition was not allowed to approach, he was not allowed to have any association with this Life. The cherubim really said to a certain kind of humanity, "No, never! It can never be for you, you are shut out, your kind can never inherit, you are excluded; this is for a creation which is according to God's mind, a humanity which is after the heart of God; it is reserved for them. Yes to them, but no to this." That is what the cherubim said at the beginning, and we see that other humanity, coming in in the great all-inclusive representation of the last Adam, the second Man, and "in Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). "The witness that God has borne concerning His Son... that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has the life; he that has not the Son of God has not the life" (1 John 5:10-12).
The cherubim, then, say, "This is a new creation in Christ!" They are in representation the new creation, and we pointed out in our last meditation that they are fourfold in their representation, four is the number of creation always, and it is a new creation in Christ where the Life is.
God has given to us that which Adam missed and his race has never possessed, because by nature we have become members of another race, joined to another humanity. That is why some of us, at least, sit down to the Lord's Table and take the loaf. It is His Body, it is our testimony to a union with another humanity, another kind of man in Whom is Life, and "we who are many are one loaf, one body" (1 Cor. 10:17), sharing that Life which makes us a different kind of creation in the innermost reality of our being from all the rest of men in Adam. May the marks of that difference be more and more pronounced!