The Cross and the New Man
The conditions at Corinth which caused Paul to write, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes", were explained in the opening chapters of his first letter as being due to their living so much on the basis of the soulical ("natural") man; and his only remedy was "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." Yes, believers, "called saints" (1 Corinthians 1:2) can do this, and can even bring spiritual gifts into the realm where they are soulishly valued and exploited. It is something to make us very sober and steady when we recognize that what is called the 'baptism' of the Holy Spirit, with 'tongues' and other 'gifts' following, does not necessarily carry with it the knowledge of the major things of the spiritual life. Hence Paul had to teach those who had such experiences the real meaning of baptism, the Cross, the Lord's Table, the Body of Christ, and Sonship. Revelation is something more than gifts or experiences. The manifestation gifts are no marks of spiritual maturity; often the reverse. Herein lies satan's most subtle snare. The mistaking of such experiences for deep and real spirituality provides him with his most desired opportunity to lead the most sincere children of God into a false experience. The Cross as deeply applied to the soulical man is the only safeguard against the presentation of what is psychical as a marvelous imitation of what is spiritual.
To continue, there is the other aspect. Man has ever refused to recognize and accept God's verdict about him. Hence he pursues a course of self-expression and self-realization. From his beginning, even when the way of God in Abel's offering was so definitely enunciated, he pursued his own course. He went out to build a world, to create a civilization, and to constitute a kingdom. Babel or Babylon is its name. It is the expression of and monument to man's power, ability, and glory. "Let us make us a name" (Genesis 11:4). "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built? ..." (Daniel 4:30). Thus, he inflates, expands and asserts himself. Yes, it is a wonderful world which he has produced, and it has got quite beyond him. He cannot manage it. Full of wonders, yes - but full of tragedy! It is fast leading to his undoing, and his own productions will wipe out his civilization. He has set something going which, by its own momentum, has got out of his hands. God will have to step in to shorten the days of this issue, or no flesh will be saved (Matthew 24:22). That is what is immediately on the horizon. What an amount we could write on this line! but we refrain. Only fools, blind fools, satan's dupes, see Utopia as the natural outcome of this present world course. Civilization has only accentuated soul-sense or sensibility, and we already know something of the meaning of "men's hearts failing them for fear" (Luke 21:26).
Yet still God's position is unchanged. Man may build his kingdom, and build it to the clouds, but heaven is closed to him. The Cross of Christ proclaims that God settled the end of all that long since. So that 'Calvary' is zero! So far as God's eternal purpose is concerned, there is no way past the Cross but by death (of self), in identification with Christ by faith. When that place has been taken and all its implications accepted, then a New Man is brought in as by resurrection-union with Christ. "If any man is in Christ, there is a new creation ..." (2 Cor. 5:17).
From that point another double process begins. There has to be a definite crisis in which all the meaning of God is accepted, whether wholly understood or not. The crisis involves and potentially carries with it everything.
The twofold process is on the one hand, the ascendency of the new man, the spiritual man; and man the other hand, the subjecting of the natural or old man. This is a life education. It is necessary to understanding. Were God to actually blot out, 'eradicate,' the old man, then the whole basis of spiritual training would be removed. We have elsewhere pointed out what this "newness of life" means in learning everything anew, in a different world, with new spiritual faculties. This new man is the "hidden man of the heart" (1 Peter 3:4) and the training of him by "the Father of our spirits" (Hebrews 12:9) will be in keeping with the earlier statement in the same letter, "the dividing of soul and spirit" (Hebrews 4:12). The meaning of this will be clear; for here is a new and altogether other law "the law of the Spirit of life." This life has its own law or laws, which have to be known.
It is a faith life. "That life which I now live ... I live in faith ..."(Galatians 2:20). So, knowledge is the fruit of faith. We need go no further, but return to a final emphasis upon the crisis of the Cross. God has nothing to say to man, but there only. Every new development in the life of a child of God will in some way be by a new expression of the meaning of the Cross; deeper death unto fuller life. God keeps the balances with a steady hand, and eventually the last phase of our self-emptying here will issue in enthronement with Christ there.
(continued with # 25 - "The Resurrection Or Spiritual Body")