Re-integration of All Things Through the Cross
In this concluding chapter we shall make a little further reference to Isaiah's prophecies. We shall seek first of all to sum up, or review, the whole matter that we have been considering, and then to present a few additional thoughts arising out of the Letters to the Ephesians and Colossians.
I would like you to draw a mental picture. Imagine, first of all, the Letter to the Romans laid down as a background,and then, superimposed upon it, a figure of the Cross. We have seen that the Letter to the Romans sets forth the Cross as God's instrument for clearing the ground for His building, providing the place for the foundation of that great building which has ever been in His thought and His intention - the Church.
The Letter to the Romans finds the ground covered at the beginning with very much upon which God will not build - upon which He cannot build. As God surveys the human scene, with a view to laying the foundation for His Church, His glorious Church, He finds a condition of things so tangled, so evil, so false and so wrong, that He says: 'I cannot lay My foundation on that, we must clear that all out of the way. We must set fire to it, consume it, and make a great clearing for this foundation.' And so, in the Letter to the Romans, the Cross is brought in and set forth as that which, on the one side, dispose of that state of things. And what a state it is! What a terrible condition is presented in the early chapters of that letter! The Cross is placed there to deal with it all, to get rid of it all, to consume it all. It is like the great brazen altar with its consuming fire, bringing everything to judgment, and leaving nothing but a clearing, an emptiness, a barrenness.
But then on the other side, God having laid His foundation, with the remaining chapters of that Letter a new prospect comes into view. Everything now is possible for God. We found in chapter 8 so much said about God's eternal counsels and foreknowledge, His wonderful thoughts and conceptions in election, in predestination, in adoption, in conformity to the image of His Son; the creation redeemed from corruption, the children of God delivered from bondage. Everything now seems to have come in for realizations, since the Cross has cleared the way.
That, then, is the first thing in the mental picture that I am asking you to draw: the Cross, as God's means for securing the foundation for everything else.
Now, from that Cross you draw radiating lines. The first line reaches to the First Letter to the Corinthians. Here the Cross is applied - not now to conditions in the world, not to those outside of Christ - but to conditions among believers that do not tally with the Cross. The Apostle brings the meaning of the Cross to bear upon the natural man, the carnal man, and all his works, upon all that has resulted from his presence among the Lord's people - the divisions, and all the rest of that horrible situation in the Church that is described in the First Letter. He says: 'When I came to you, I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified' (1 Corinthians 1:1, 2). So the first 'radiation' from Romans is to all conditions inside the church that are not in agreement with the meaning of the Cross. God cannot get on with building until those things are dealt with.
We find the Apostle telling the Corinthians in that First Letter that the foundation is already laid: 'I laid the foundation, as a wise master builder, and others build thereon; but let every man take heed what what he builds thereon' (1 Corinthians 3:10). The things that we find in that letter, as we have pointed out, are the things to which God says: 'No, you must not put those on My foundation. My foundation is worthy of something better than that. We cannot have those things in our clearing - they will only clutter everything up once more and make it necessary for us to go through the whole business of consuming all over again. Because every man's work which is not according to the Cross is going up in flames and smoke - there will be nothing left.'
That, then, is the first outreach of the Cross as from Romans, to touch conditions among the Lord's people which are not in accordance with what God means by the Cross. God says 'No' to all that. 'I am not going to use that on My foundation; I am not going to build with that. You get rid of that, and then we will get on with the building.' As we saw in a previous chapter, those things were dealt with by the Corinthians themselves. The fire did burn among them - the fire of repentance, the fire of self-judgment, the fire of clearing, the fire of brokenness of heart (1 Corinthians 7:11). Something happened, and they dealt with those things.
The second radiating line leads to the Second Letter to the Corinthians. Here you have the great restoration of testimony in the church in Corinth - in the location, in the city and in the world. The testimony that had been marred and spoiled can now be recovered. When God finds that state of heart, that state of spirit - broken, humble, contrite, very low before Him, 'trembling at His word' (Isaiah 66:2) - He can get on with things in relation to testimony in the world. That is, He can now build. When He has that, then things begin to happen outwardly - it does not require a great effort, they just do happen - because here is the expression of the mighty dynamic power of God in the midst.
The Apostle says in that letter: "It is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness" (or 'Let light be,' in the first creation), "Who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Corinthians 4:6). A few verses previously he says: "We ... beholding ... the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory" (3:18). That is the testimony: when things inwardly have been dealt with, the outshining is quite spontaneous. It is just the result of a deep, very quiet work of God. When God spoke into the first chaos His fiat: 'Let light be!' I do not thing that there was a very great noise about it. There never needs to be a great noise when God put forth His power. There is the 'hiding of His power,' to use Habakkuk's phrase (Habakkuk 3:4). But that is not the minimizing of His power. God only needs to speak, and immense things can happen. He only said: 'Let light be!' - but look at the force and power of light in this creation. How terrific is the light! - and just from a word. It is symbolic.
But here at Corinth, the light shines out when God has right conditions; and that is how it will be. There need not be the great noise of publicity, of advertisement, of organization, of tremendous excitement and feverish activity. If the testimony is there, people will know it, people will feel it. If the conditions are right, something will happen. And if there is nothing happening, then we had better look to our conditions!
(continued with # 2 - "Galatians")