Now we will lay the foundation for our consideration at this time. In the Word of God from the letter to the Romans chapter 1, an abbreviation of the first four verses: "The servant of Jesus Christ... separated unto the gospel of God... concerning His Son... who was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness by the resurrection of the dead, even Jesus Christ, our Lord." We shall return to that shortly because it is there that we have the basic word for this time.
We turn to the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 1: "Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preach unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved." At verse 12: "Now if Christ is preached that He hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised. And if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that He raised up Christ whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised; and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."
Verse 45: "So also it is written: The first man Adam became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit."
In the second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, at verse 14: "For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge that One died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for their sakes died and rose again. Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh; even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more. Wherefore if any man is in Christ there is a new creation."
Now back to the passage in the first chapter of the letter to the Romans, in verse 4: "Who was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead." The word "declared", or as it might be translated, designated or determined, is the focal point of our present meditation. This word is the verb of the Greek word horizo, which you now understand to be the English word horizon. And so we are present with another aspect of the horizon which Christ is. And here the statement is that Christ is made the horizon of a new creation by resurrection from the dead. We are thus going to consider this horizon of resurrection, or horizoned by resurrection.
We now understand what a horizon is. It is the frontier of vision and the content of knowledge, the range of our apprehension and comprehension. And these letters to the Corinthians are an unfolding of what that means; what it means that Christ by resurrection has been constituted, designated, determined, declared the horizon - the whole range and scope of a new creation. By resurrection He is made that, so that everything in Christ is known, and apprehended, and entered into on the ground of resurrection and in no other way.
Now, this is no new "subject" (if I may call it that) with you. You have been made familiar over many years of the great meaning of resurrection in Christ. But in all our former considerations of resurrection, we have almost entirely dwelt upon the power and the life aspects of resurrection. The phrase "the power of His resurrection" has become very familiar with us. It is not specifically that aspect which is to be before us at this time. There is another aspect which governs the power and the Life factors in resurrection, and this is:
The Character Aspect of Resurrection.
Resurrection means a kind of person, and a kind of persons produced by resurrection. For the power and the Life of resurrection to be effective, there must be the kind of person that the resurrection produces. This power (and it is the exceeding greatness of His power by which He raised Christ from the dead) this power, this mighty resurrection Life, waits upon the kind of person and persons necessary for their expression. This is not going to happen just any how on any ground. There's a demand here.
Christ in resurrection is the first of a new order - entirely new order of creation. And the power which was demonstrated and exercised in raising Him from the dead is only transferred to those who are of that same resurrection new order: a new creation in Christ. You see, this phrase with which we are so familiar: "If any man be in Christ, there is a new creation" - means in Christ as risen. If any man is in Christ risen, there is a new creation. It is the order of things, the kind; if you like, the species of humanity that comes up in resurrection and is before God eternally acceptable. This is where the power of resurrection is effective, is manifested, is in testimony.
You can see this quite easily when you recognise the particular significance of these two letters to the Corinthians. The first letter, you may write one word over that which includes practically all that is in it, and that word is shame. Shame. You cannot read through - especially the first half of that letter or more without blushing with shame, without saying, "Shame, shame. What a shame." It's a shameful situation.
The second letter can have another word written over it and that is the word glory. The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Glory. And what is it that makes the difference? You see the heart, the heart of everything is chapter 15, of letter 1: resurrection. And the apostle begins that part of his letter, having dealt with all the shameful aspects, by speaking now of the gospel which he preached, which they received, wherein they stood, by which they were saved: the gospel. And that's the beginning of chapter 15, but what does it turn out to be? It is the gospel of the resurrection.
The Gospel of the Resurrection
And what the apostle is saying here, in effect, is: "You Corinthians, who are in such a state as has been described in this earlier part of my letter, have not yet apprehended the meaning of the gospel. You accepted my preaching, you believed what I said, you took a position upon it, and positionally, you're all right, but as to a real understanding of your position, you have a very poor knowledge indeed."
The gospel is something more than assenting to preaching or things preached and said, and making some kind of gesture or even committal to that. The gospel demands a state such as that of the Lord Jesus in resurrection! It's the gospel of the resurrection. The gospel of the resurrection is the gospel of a new creation in Christ. Now note: the inclusive and the predominant thing here is the place of Christ in resurrection.
With this we may be content this morning because it is the foundation and the key to everything that has to follow.
The apostle approached this deplorable situation in Corinth (and deplorable is, after all, a very weak word if you really understand what things were like there) he approached this situation by nailing them down to the name of Christ. In no other of his letters is the name of Christ so continuously reiterated and introduced. In the first nine verses of the first letter, the name of Christ is mentioned no fewer than nine times. When you get that on the threshold, you know pretty well what you've got to meet and deal with. And I'm quite sure that as I read those verses from chapter 15, you were impressed with the constant reiteration of the name of Christ. "Now is Christ.. now if Christ be risen..." Christ, Christ, Christ! If you put a red line under the name of Christ in these letters, you will see that that's the focal point of everything. And I say again, that in order to get this transition from shame to glory, from Adam number one to Adam number two, from the old creation to the new creation, the apostle focuses and nails them down to the name of Christ.
This has a comprehensive application, but it is illustrated by the way in which the first letter comes to this matter of names. It is not long before the apostle says, "One saith, I am of Paul. Another, I am of Apollos. Another, I am of Cephas," or Peter. So, making names - the names of men, apostles of Christ, servants of the Lord - making names, human names, earthly names after all, at best, the focal point around which they would succour, to which they would gather. As for himself, the apostle said, "I will have none of it! I will have none of it! Who is Paul, who is Apollos, who is Cephas, but ministers through whom you believe? We'll have no other names or name. None of these men can rectify this situation. No other name is adequate to meet these needs. One name only."
I take that particular fragment of the names as put aside for the one name, as illustrative of all that is in these letters. It is a matter of understanding Christ and understanding that Christ is the horizon of everything.
The indictment is clearly this: if these conditions, any or all of them, obtain amongst believers or in a church, it is a clear indication that Christ in resurrection has not been truly apprehended, that such as are responsible for these conditions, in part or in whole, have not yet come to understand the meaning of resurrection; for the resurrection man is not like this at all. He's not like this at all! He's a very different kind of man. He's a new creation man. He has left one ground. When in the second letter Paul says, "Through that death in Christ, now on resurrection ground, the new creation in Christ, we henceforth know no man after the flesh", he is saying, "Our ground is not the ground of 'I am of Paul'. That's knowing a man after the flesh! 'I am of Apollos', that's knowing after the flesh. 'I am of Peter...' that's knowing after the flesh. And even 'I am of Christ'. No, henceforth we know Him so no longer. Not after the flesh."
This is a new ground of relationships, a new ground of conduct and behavior. This is a new realm altogether in resurrection, where it is not Adam the first in whom all died, but it is Adam the Last in Whom all are made alive in resurrection. So it is important for us to come, perhaps, to the very foundation of things again and recognise this: that Paul designates the gospel as:
The Gospel of Resurrection.
The gospel, with most people, just means the most elementary things: atonement for sin, pardon and remission, and such things. Thank God for them, they're true, they're right! But the gospel is a much bigger thing than that. The gospel is the gospel of a new order of creation in Christ by resurrection - the complete transition through death, burial, and resurrection from one federal headship in the first Adam, to another in the last Adam: the Life-Giving Spirit. To understand the gospel, then, is to understand the meaning of resurrection as that of a new creation, a different and changed order of humanity.
Now we open out a little more broadly at this point. This is the reason why the Bible is a book of living people, people with a living experience. The Bible is not essentially, supremely a book of things. It is not a book of doctrine, of forms, and orders, and systems, and techniques. If any of these things do obtain - and there are doctrines in the Bible, of course, and there are orders in the Bible, there are ways of doing things in the Bible - there are these things but if they are there in the Bible, they only occur in relation to living people. Out of relation to living people they have no meaning, no sense, and no place. God is not one little bit interested in things. He is not a bit interested in systems, in places, in names, in themselves. He uses places. He uses instruments and vessels. He uses some things, but always and only in relation to spiritual history in living people. And as soon as the thing, the doctrine, the system, the technique, the order becomes something in itself, the Lord just leaves it to itself and says, "I'm going on with living people. You can take responsibility for that. I no longer do." The onus is put upon those who bring anything into the realm of just things, even though they may call the name of the Lord upon them.
As soon as anything used by the Lord becomes something in itself and is separated from living spiritual history in a people, it is discarded by the Lord. The Bible says that. You can have a temple or a tent in Shiloh - nothing more than a shell, an empty thing, the glory departed. You can have a Jerusalem with all its wonderful history of Divine use and you can find it nothing but a ruin - no glory of God remaining. So you may go today to what are called "Bible lands", whether it be in Asia Minor or in any other part of the New Testament story, and find nothing. Nothing but the places visited by the apostles (and the apostles in which God did something very wonderful). Empty shells, if there's any trace of them at all. God did not commit Himself to a thing, to a place, He committed Himself to a living people. That is the whole argument of the first three chapters of the book of the Revelation. God has no interest, Christ has no interest in things, even with His Name upon them. He has only interest in living people - living people with a spiritual history. God is not the God of the dead, He is the God of the living. And that line not only applies to persons, that applies to things. He's the God of living people. He is the God of living instruments.
And this brings us back here, you see: designated, horizoned, the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness by the resurrection from the dead. Christ! Christ! Christ! Ever, always, interminably Christ is the object of God's interest, the focal point, and the inclusive horizon of God's concern. Within Christ risen, which means within Christ alive, you'll find the interests of God. Nowhere else.
Now the practical application of this to the Corinthians and to all others and to ourselves is this: what are you set upon? What are you after? What do you want? What really are you working for? What are you building up? Is it one, single, all-inclusive passion for the Name of Christ or is it some thing? If it is a passion for the Name of Christ, then all this in the first part of the Corinthian letter must go. We cannot have it. No one can say, "I am of this one and that one and the other one." No one can build some thing upon Christ. It can only be Christ upon Christ. Only Christ.
How corrective this would be if really our hearts were burned up with this zeal for the Name of Christ. How eliminating this would be, how excluding this would be. How triumphant this would be, and there's your victory in resurrection. Triumph, triumph! Oh, yes, not only over death as we think of death, but all these features of death: in Adam all die, all these features of death. And the apostle is clearly indicating that these things belong to Adam! These things belong to the old creation, and they are in death. In resurrection they cannot be - they just cannot be in resurrection. In resurrection it is Christ, just and only Christ.
One thing, dear friends, that we do covet more than anything else, is the countenance of God, the favourable look of the Lord. If the light of His countenance might be lifted upon us, there's everything there. We can go through anything if we're sure of that. We shall go through anything if that is true. It will be strength. It will be comfort. Yes, it will be everything, if only we can have the light of God's countenance. Just as it is equally true, to lose the light of that countenance is to lose everything. Nothing, nothing is worth anything at all if we have not His countenance, His face is not toward us. Where shall we find His countenance? Not in our Christian things. We find it in Christ. The face of the Lord is toward His Son. He has made Him, determined Him, designated Him the horizon - the horizon - of everything: His Son. The gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord Whom He designated, horizoned, by resurrection. There we shall find the face of the Lord.
This new passion for His Name, His honour, His glory, in all its wonderful meaning, for in resurrection, He has been given the Name which is above every name. The passion for that Name, and you come into all that it means, will find us within that horizon, in that sphere where the Son has risen, where the light shines, where the face of the Lord is clear.
Now, you'll notice, the first letter to the Corinthians begins thus: "To the church of God which is in Corinth." The church of God which is in Corinth. The second letter narrows that right down to the individual: "If any man be in Christ." All this that is here is for churches, but you're not going to escape by being in a crowd. You're not going to be hidden in what you may call a "church". The church must be a resurrection church, but it cannot be that unless its members are resurrection people. And so from the collective it is narrowed down to the personal - "if any man, if any man." It is the aggregate of this "any man," all those who can be said to be like this: in Christ risen, new creations. That's what makes the church. Nothing else, just that and only that. Risen men and women living in the meaning of the resurrection of Christ, and everything else follows.
All I need to say in concluding this morning is just this, what I said at the beginning: dwell upon the power aspect, upon the Life aspect, and you may miss the whole thing unless you recognise that the power and the Life aspects of resurrection demand the ground of resurrection in character, in nature, in condition, and not only position. This, this change is so clearly shown in these letters. In the first, yes, you believe, wherein you stand, by which you're saved - your foundation is all right. But even with a foundation like that, you may be building, building, building on that foundation something that is just going up in the flames of judgment and not one bit of it left. If all that follows upon the foundation does not correspond to the foundation of Christ risen, then your position may get you through and you'll be saved, "By which also you are saved", "Saved yet only as by fire"; nothing more. Or you may, if on the foundation you are building that which is of Christ in resurrection, you may have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom.
These are the alternatives: getting in, just getting in, and that's all; or getting in mightily and gloriously, triumphantly, with the full approval and benediction of the Father, "Well done, well done!" To miss that, to get in without that, would be a loss, wouldn't it? We're speaking, but here that's how the Bible does speak. To step into Heaven and not find the door, so to speak, without a "Well done," to just get in, allowed to get in without that, something's been terribly, terribly missed, if that's so.
No, the apostle says that the foundation is Christ and all that we do afterward must be Christ, all Christ, all Christ. And so he reflects upon these conditions: divisions, divisions - human preferences for this one and that one, likes and dislikes dividing. This incipient, incipient schism. If there had not been this triumph either between these two letters, or soon after the second one, if there had not been this triumph in Corinth, which does seem to have taken place very largely, if you read into the second letter their repentance, their Godly sorrow, their setting things right. If it had not been for that, you know what would have happened? You would have gone to Corinth and found a half a dozen different churches, "And this one is called by the name of St. Paul, and this is St. Paul's church, and this is St. Peter's church, and this is St. Apollos's church." And yet another would say, "This is Christ's church." A deplorable situation. And Christ won't own it, any of it. No, the church is something different from that. "Is Christ divided?" said the apostle. Is Christ divided, he asks, puts it in a form of question. The margin puts it affirmatively, "Christ is divided, by your behaviour." Whether it be a question or an affirmation, the implication is the same. No, no, a right apprehension of Christ will never result in this sort of thing. Never! A right apprehension of the gospel of Christ will correct all this.
Well, friends, you are wondering, "Why this?" I'm wondering it myself! Not for any other reason than that I feel the Lord wants to say to us, "Let us see to it, let us see to it that we've got a right apprehension of what it means to be in resurrection union with Christ. Let us be quite sure that we understand the gospel, which is the gospel of resurrection." And resurrection means another order of people, and an order of people which will not tolerate - cannot allow it - any of these things mentioned.
Of course, I know quite well that in the main Corinthian conditions may not obtain in companies of the Lord's people today. There may not be such things as incest. Some of the other things we do know are found, even today, amongst the Lord's people. But it isn't a matter of more or less sin and iniquity; the measure, the degree, or the kind. It is the nature which refuses to have this kind of thing and by that very nature throws it off - throws it off and bursts these bonds. You have planted your seeds, your corns, and what are you seeing all around? You are seeing the result of something that happened when that seed, that corn, or that bulb got down into the earth. There came a moment when it said, "I'm not going to have this. This is death! I refuse and repudiate this bondage, this limitation. I am going to break out of this and get free!" And so you see everywhere the effect of a revolt against limitation, smallness, narrowness, darkness, death - the breaking up in a claim for Life and liberty. That's the power of His resurrection! That's what resurrection Life will do wherever it is at work. It will say, "We'll not have this state of things any longer! We will not tolerate this! We will break through and out of this. We will get clear of this, we will shed all this. We'll come out and claim our liberty in Christ from it all!" That's spiritual history.
That is why I said the Bible is a book of living people - living people, not things, dead things. God wants people in whom there is the Life of His Risen Son who will say, "Look here, we are not tolerating this, we are not having this. I'm having nothing of this. This is death, this is darkness, this is bondage, this is limitation, this is defeat, this is shame! No more of this! Up and out by the power of God! We claim the glorious liberty of the resurrection of the Son of God." May we really be of that order: a new creation.