The Great Transition From One Humanity to Another
The Immense Significance of Jesus Christ: Crucified, Risen, and Exalted
Lord, when we say to Thee, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law," Thou knowest that the most "wonderful" Thou canst show to us is Thy Son; and so, not things, but Him. Open our eyes that we may see Him this morning. It is to Thee, and not to men, but to Thee that we say, "We would see Jesus"; and O Lord, grant it in Thy mercy that when we leave this place we are able truly to say: "We have seen the Lord." Be it so, for Thy Name's sake, Amen.
Now we come to the last of these hours, in which we have been occupied with the "Great Transition," having said at the beginning that the whole Bible is occupied with God and humanity. The Old Testament, with an old humanity throughout, showed how utterly unreliable that humanity is, and how it eventually proved a failure as the Old Testament closes. I expect you have noticed that not in the chronological order, but in the spiritual order the Old Testament closes with Malachi, and what a sorry picture in Malachi it is, the closing of the book in failure. The New Testament is occupied wholly with the introduction and development of a New Humanity, brought in with the Lord Jesus Christ; and from that point the whole of the New Testament is the Representative of its birth, its growth, and its eventual and ultimate glorification.
That is the general background of these morning hours this week. And we came two days ago to the all-inclusive vision of the Lord Jesus and began (as we shall never finish though we stayed here all our life - began to see what there is in Jesus Christ, what HE has brought in, and what the Apostle Paul saw in the Lord Jesus when, as he put it, "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." What an immense revealing that was, which grew and grew all through the life of the apostle. And we said that four things came to the apostle in that vision, that "Heavenly Vision," that inward seeing of the Lord Jesus.
Firstly, in Jesus glorified, Paul saw, according to the eternal thoughts of God, the place and the nature and the destiny of humanity, the Humanity after Christ. Then Paul saw the nature and dynamic of a life ministry, of a ministry through this long dispensation between the ascension of the Lord Jesus and His coming again, he saw what the ministry is, the vocation. He saw that when he saw the Lord Jesus. We spent a lot of time on it: not enough. Then Paul saw the nature and the purpose of the Church now, and as he put it, "unto the Age of the ages." These three great things he saw, and then Paul saw a fourth. With this, we are going to be occupied this morning.
Paul Saw Jesus Christ Crucified, Risen, Exalted
Saul of Tarsus saw Jesus of Nazareth glorified - "The Man in the Glory." And as he gazed and gazed inwardly upon that Man, seeing that vision, that revelation, he saw these three things that we have mentioned, and then Paul saw the immense significance of Jesus Christ Crucified, Risen, and Exalted; and, of course, these are the things which fill all his writings. You will have to approach them with these four things before you. Let me repeat, the immense significance of Jesus Christ: Crucified, Risen, and Exalted.
We are totally incapable of sensing, recognizing, conceiving what happened to this man, Saul of Tarsus, when he saw the Lord Jesus, for he had thought of Jesus the Nazarene as an impostor, a false teacher, a false leaders, as One Who was leading people astray; and all the feelings of animosity and hatred and bitterness, of which that great soul was capable, overflowed against this Man - Jesus of Nazareth. He made it his life business, with his tremendous abilities, his natural abilities, and his training, and all his knowledge; he made it his life business to blot out any remnant related to that Man, Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. Saul viewed the Cross of Jesus Christ as His deserved crucifixion. He viewed the death of Jesus of Nazareth as death, death as we know it - the end. And that in shame - deserved shame, deserved ignominy, deserved disgrace. And more than that, from his Jewish standpoint, he viewed that Man on that Cross as cursed of God, as cursed of Almighty God! This was his mid about Jesus of Nazareth.
When Paul saw Jesus on the way to Damascus and he was smitten with the Light, not knowing at that moment Who and what it meant, he said, because of the overpoweringness of it, "Who art Thou, Lord?" - I say we can never enter into the tremendous convulsion that must have taken place in this man Saul when there came back in answer: "I am Jesus, I am Jesus," that One of Whom you have had that mentality; that One, about Whom you have had all those thoughts and feelings. I AM He, I AM Jesus." I say, we cannot enter into what that man must have felt at that moment, but it was then, and from then on, that he began to see This MAN JESUS, Glorified, in the Seat of Power, capable of smiting even such a man as Saul of Tarsus to the ground with one stroke, and prostrating him, leaving him one who has got to be lifted up by men, and by the arm led blind to the place where he was going. In the overwhelmingness of it, he began to see in that ONE that it was not just a crucifixion, and it was not a death such as he had thought of death; but that Jesus Christ, Crucified, was all that his life after (that which he learned by revelation and experience throughout his life) and teaching showed him to have seen.
HE DIED IN MY PLACE: HE DIED FOR ALL
And what an "all" Paul saw; it comes out in considerable fullness in his ministry. What Paul saw first of all was that death, that ignominious death, that shameful death, that awful death, was his own death. Paul saw what God thought of him; it was God's attitude toward him. He could say: "That Man on that Cross like that, n all that state of degradation and shame and helpless weakness, despised and rejected, all that - that was me, that was me, that was what God thinks of my humanity. He died for me (but you know that the meaning is "in my place"). When He died, I died, that was my death, and that was God's conception of me, Saul of Tarsus!!" Oh, what a revolution! He had a great idea of himself and his own abilities; but, look, this is God unveiling Saul of Tarsus, but more than that: "He died in my place." And that was a death, a new idea about death.
Moreover Paul saw, and I am keeping, of course, firstly to his teaching; I am not reading in anything, making up something. You can sit down with it yourself and prove everything that I am saying from the New Testament. He saw not only that that death, that awful death, as a judgment upon a kind of man was his death, but he saw that it was the death of the whole human race in Adam. What does Paul say? "Because we thus judge that One died in the place of all, therefore all died." Coneybeare says, "It was the death of the whole race ..." "As in Adam all die." This is the New Conception to the Cross of the Lord Jesus. Our death, the death of the whole race, the humanity to which we belong by nature, the whole - all died. But then Paul came to see this also, that in the death of Jesus it was not death as an end; it was a death that destroyed death. In a sense, it was a death which was the end of death. "He tasted death for all men," it is true; but then, "He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
(continued with # 2 - "A Cosmic Cross, A Cosmic Death")